Hey, Jen! I have a great idea to make the panel easier (I've done it, with a very thin strip, same principle). Cut a strip as wide as you want the panel to be (2 3/4" is what I think you used). Then, position the strip on your card where you want it to be, draw a line where the edges of the card hit the strip off paper, and cut off the excess!! This saves A LOT of paper, since you aren't trying to cut a piece out of the "middle" of a card-sized piece. Does that make sense?
Hope I can find some time to play later . . .